The center touches the football more than any other position in a football game. He is the innermost lineman of the offensive line and is the player who passes (or “snaps”) the ball between his legs to the quarterback at the start of each play. This dude is important to your football team!
In recent years, the importance of centers for a football team has increased, due to the re-emergence of 3-4 defenses. According to Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, “you need to have somebody who can neutralize that defensive nose tackle. If you don’t, everything can get screwed up. Your running game won’t be effective and you’ll also have somebody in your quarterback’s face on every play.”
The center’s first and primary role is to pass the football to the quarterback. This exchange is called a snap. Most offensive schemes make adjustments based on how the defensive lineman and linebackers align themselves to the offensive line and what gaps they line up in. Because the center has an ideal view of the defensive formation before the snap, he typically makes the first line call. This call is typically based on the position of the defensive linemen or linebackers in his gaps (0i-1i) and most subsequent adjustments are dependent on this call. That’s why you will often see the center pointing to different players or gaps on the defense before he snaps the ball.
The center is the orchestra director for the offensive line. Just like a quarterback may change the play at the line of scrimage, the center may call an adjustment for the entire offensive line.
After the snap, the center performs blocking assignments for run or pass plays. On most plays, the center will snap the ball directly into the quarterback’s hands. In a shotgun formation, the center snaps the ball to the quarterback lined up several yards behind him. In punt and field goal formations, the center (see long snapper) also snaps the ball several yards behind him to the punter or holder on the field goal unit. Because bad snaps can ruin special teams plays and cause turnovers, some teams have a center who is specifically trained for snapping the ball in punt and field goal formations. This player is often referred to as the team’s long snapper. Also, the center does not have to snap the ball to the quarterback, holder, or punter. He is allowed to snap the ball to anyone behind him. Because of this, some plays involve snaps directly to running backs instead of the player generally expected to receive the snap, hoping to fool the defense.
Are you considering this great and challenging position? If so, here’s some video tips on how to be a center…